Thursday, April 30, 2009

Parsley is hard

You know - parsley is hard to grow. I find this interesting as it was the garnishment of choice in the 70s. It takes 3 to 4 weeks for those little seeds to sprout and then does it grow slow!

Off to Wisc this weekend. I've got to plant my potatoes - if the ground isn't too wet!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I made a pot of beans for supper last night. The beans are from Rancho Gordo in Napa Valley. I've posted about this before, but it bears repeating. These are the best beans in the world. The black beans make the most incredible pot liquor I've ever seen. Last night we had the Appaloosa beans - it looks like they are sold out now. Lots of resources on the web for heirloom beans - SSE has them too.

I soaked them overnight on Monday. Last night after work, put them on the stovetop (didn't rinse or drain, use the soak water) and cooked slowly for 2 hours. Browned a purple onion in my cast iron and added it towards the end with a little bit of salt. Served in a bowl topped with some fresh marjoram and some arugula thinnings. I made some buckwheat/cornbread as a side. Delicious.

These heirloom beans have so inspired me to grow beans this year. I typically grow beans for for fresh eating. Anyone have experience growing beans for dried beans? Is it really labor intensive? Were you able to get enough to get you thru the winter?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Slow moving seedlings

Ghesh, my seedlings are slowgoing. I think I've detected what the problem is. Remember my wondertool - the soil block maker? I think I need to transplant earlier than I thought with those little blocks. I replanted about 15 tomatoes last night into reused pots and yogurt cups with holes poked in the bottom.

I had ordered the larger soil block maker thinking that I could make big blocks and put the little ones into it. I have changed my mind. First, it requires way too much soil. Second, it just didn't work correctly. I think I'm going to send it back.

I've learned quite a bit this year. I still really like the 2x2 block maker. It works best in a cardboard carton (like the ones that hold a case of beer) lined with plastic. The plastic keeps them from drying out too much. The ones that I put on old cookie trays dried out too much.

Keep on transplanting.

Monday, April 27, 2009

On being a vermicomposter

I've gotten a second job. I'm a Junior Urban Worm Girl. What does this mean? I'm attending green fairs and having fun telling people about the joys of composting with worms.

My friend Stephanie started a company called Urban Worm Girl about six months ago. Her mission is to educate folks about worms and vermicomposting. She does in-home worm setups, speaks to schools and has worm parties. The interest in her services has been quite overwhelming; so much so that she needed some help. I have agreed to help her as I can. So I drove out to Elgin this past weekend and worked a booth at an environmental fair. It was great fun. I was so busy that I was unable to break for lunch. People are curious about the worms and the process. My worms were the star of the show. I wanted to take some photos, but I was so busy that I never got a chance.

Supper tonight was tuna with homegrown greens (sorrel, lovage, chives and lemon balm) in an oil & vinegar atop homemade bagettes. Ahhhh... spring! Eating from the yard again - I've missed it!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Spring planting

Finally got some seeds in the ground in the Chicago backyard.

I planted:

6 grafted apple trees - keeping them in Chicago for a year so I can baby them
Bull's Blood Beets
Danver's Carrots
Purple top Turnips
French breakfast radish

Bill made a lovely supper last night of a pita with an egg on top, potato salad and a green salad.

I've also been able to ride my bike to work two times this week.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Herbs and the church we own

I finally started my herbs back on 3/20.
5 Cumin
5 Curly Parsley
5 Flat Parsley
5 Sweet Basil
5 Dill
5 Chamomile
5 Clary Sage
5 Thyme

25 Red Milkweed Prairie Asclepias incarnata
These were cool - I had to refrigerate for 2 weeks in moist stratification to help increase germination. I just took them out of the fridge this past weekend. We'll see how they do.

We are off to Wisc this weekend for a big work project. We have a second property in Wisc (other than the farm) that we actually purchased back in 2003 - 3 years before the farm - its an old country church. I found it for sale online and it was priced right because it had no well, water or bathroom. What it did have was electric, a furnace and lots of character. Its a Primitive Methodist church from the 1850s with lots of original glass. We have spent the past six years fixing it up at every possible moment. We have had the exterior painted and a new roof (including tear-off) put on, a septic installed and well dug. Those were the projects that we hired others to do. Bill and I have: installed plumbing for a bathroom & kitchen, refinished the floor (environmentally friendly stain and wax finishing), painted the interior (interior scaffolding to reach the 15' ceilings, 6 days and 35 gallons of primer and paint - again environmentally friendly), repaired the bell tower, cleaned out the bell tower (birds living there), landscaped, installed a kitchen, installed the bathroom, laid bathroom tile (with heated floor), installed slate in the entry way, installed a new energy efficient furnace, tore out the Menard's special cheap door and replaced with original doors that were in the basement, installed a fireplace with chimney, built custom screen doors for the front, installed large boulders as steps to the doors, sewed curtains, put in a garden, increased the garden size, installed a gravel parking pad, built a shed/firewood storage. And, there's more.

I could go on and on. When we go to Wisc, this is where we stay as the farmhouse isn't habitable. So this weekend, Bill hopes to finish a bit of stonework and I am going to strip the majority of sod from the 1/4 acre lot so we can seed with native prairie seed.

This about wraps it up for our work on the church. We then turn to the farm. Our church projects will quickly dull in comparison to the amount that we have to do at the farm. We like old buildings and we like to fix 'em up! :)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Feline Update

Well.... I'm hopeful that this was a good decision.

Cathy was able to catch 3 of the 4 cats. She drove them up on Saturday morning - uneventfully. We released them in the barn and, understandably, they were fairly freaked out. They ran into the old milkhouse (small room attached to the barn) and hid behind a wooden pallet. We left them there as they clearly needed to adjust. We filled up the food and water bowls and left them.

Bill & I went back to check on them yesterday. At first I couldn't find any of them. I was sad and deeply disappointed. Bill came in and saw some little kitty eyes watching us from the top of the hay bales. I felt better. I couldn't tell which one it was - either L'il Gray or Tiger. Bill went to the upper part of the barn to work on our trailer (another story - he broke off part of the hitch last time we were there so he needed to replace that). He called from up top - that there was a cat in the upper portion. I walked out to go up to where he was and she was already out the door and was running across the hill - I think it was Tiger. She saw me and turned and hightailed it up the hill. I let her go because I didn't want to push her further away.

No other cats were apparent. I went for a walk around the farm. I returned via an upper pasture and noticed a strange squirrel nest in the top of one of the trees. I could have sworn it was a cat! It was so high up that I couldn't tell. I went to the car and got our binoculars - and sure enough - it was a cat! It was Tiger waaaaay up in the tree. I walked quickly away because again, I don't want to add her to scared-state.

We were there 1.5 hours. Tiger stayed in the tree and I didn't see any of the others. Bill thinks that L'il Gray and Morris were in the haybales. I hope so. Morris is supposedly the most friendly - so I was pretty disappointed to not see him. I hope he is still in the barn or in the area. I am fearful that he took off to try to find his way home.

I emailed my friend that keeps her horses at the barn this morning. She said she would email/call or text me this week to let me know the status of things.

Cathy hopes to catch the 4th cat and I am going to drive her up this weekend. Cathy said she is crying and very lonely without her littermates.

I sincerely hope that this hasn't all been a terrible mistake. I am doubting myself.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Project Feline Relocate - Part I

A co-worker (Cathy) and I have hatched a plan. She has 4 stray cat littermates that live on her front porch in Chicago. They have been outdoor cats their whole lives. Last summer she tried to find homes or a shelter to take them - unsuccessfully. She trapped and had them all neutered (1 male, 3 females). Her neighbors are becoming more vocal about their dislike of these "strays."

They are now adults. Still living in her neighborhood and hanging on her front porch. We are going to relocate them to the farm/barn this weekend. They are not feral - although two are a bit skittish. She is going to grab them on Saturday morning and transport them up to Wisc and we will release them in the barn. Our friends that board their four horses at the farm have agreed to feed the new transports regularly. Hopefully they will help cut down on the mouse infestation that we currently have in the barn.

I'll post this weekend with an update on how it goes.

And, see Barb's blog for great cow info today.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations)

My blogging friend Barb has a problem. A CAFO is proposed within two miles of her farm. Anyone that eats store bought, non-grassfed meat is contributing to this problem. And, this is a big problem.

CAFOs are farming operations, usually agribusiness, where animals are raised for food in a confined area. They have no access to pasture, minimal room to move around, pumped full of antibiotics, and fed grain - not grass, grain. These CAFOs are putting small family farms out of business.

CAFOs and Factory Farms are essentially the same thing. They destroy the rural way of life and pollute drinking water, streams and rivers. They render the rural countryside an unfit place to live, farm and raise children. In one day a CAFO/FF can produce the same amount of manure and waste as a town of 25,000 people! The manure is often stored in manure pits (called manure lagoons) which can leak nitrates and pollute ground water and streams. People that live in the vicinity of factory farms can not open their windows in nice weather or enjoy their yards because of the stench of the CAFOs/FF.

Click here for Wisco CAFO watch.

Don't be part of the problem. Buy local meat from family farms. Its not hard to do. It tastes better. And it will allow the farmer to stay on his/her farm without a CAFO/FF threatening the very existence of the rural way of life.